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The Mind and the Octopus

Posted by on Apr 16, 2011

Paramahansa Yogananda wrote a wonderful article for the Self-Realization Fellowship back when my grandmother was still alive. I’m not certain if she visited him in San Rafael, California, or just learned of his work, but she was on his mailing list at least since 1985. I found one of the Fellowship Center’s mailings with this article:

(I have abbreviated it, and then expounded upon it for clarity)

“Bad Habits are like an octopus – they have many tentacles to hold you in their grip.  And once they enwrap you, those octopus-like habits feed on you; they will destroy you. But if good habits have a hold on you, they will nourish you.

Don’t at all let your mind tell you that it is so hard to be good and so easy to be bad. It is much easier to be good than to suffer the consequences of wrong actions. It is a little difficult sometimes to resist temptation, because your senses try to entrap you. (*) But once you get into the habit of being good, it is very hard to be bad; because you know you will be beaten up within and without by doing something you know is wrong. There is no fun in having bad habits; evil [ego] destroys all the fun. It satiates the mind, so that soon there is no longer any joy in over-eating, in sexual over-activity, in over-indulgence of any of the senses. If in anything you overdo, remember, you are under the influence and in the grip of bad habits.  For instance, if you have ulcers of the stomach, and through habit, continue to eat meat, or hot or fried foods, which further irritate the stomach and take away the scabs formed by nature to heal the ulcers, the ulcerated condition will worsen and may develop into cancer or a hemorrhage. Rather, you should eat pureed and soft foods, and other foods that do not irritate the stomach lining.  Why let habit make you eat those things which you know ill harm you?”

I adore how simple and common sense this advice is. Many people look to the more esoteric aspects of yoga to heal themselves, but sometimes, the wisdom is so obvious it is laughable. Sri Paramahansa was a pragmatic teacher. He is taking some of the oldest teachings in yoga and deciphering them so that a child could understand their wisdom.  (*) When he speaks of the senses entrapping you like the arms of an octopus, he is talking about the teachings of the Mahabhrata and the eight limbs of yoga discussed therein.  Utilizing Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dhyana, Dharana, Tarka, Samadhi along with Yama and Niyama, one can free themselves of the cycles of birth and rebirth, death and suffering. A direct translation from the Mahabhrata states “Indeed, O king, they have not spoken to any other kind of Yoga.  It has been said that the practices of Yogis excellent as these are of two kinds.  Those two kinds, according to the indications occurring in the scriptures, are practices imbued with attributes and those freed from attributes. . . the goal is to concentrate the mind in such a way as to destroy all difference between the contemplator, the object contemplated, and the act of contemplation along with subjugation of the five senses. Once we develop attributes, we are freed from them. This is liberation.”


 (c) 2011 Christina Sarich

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